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Z68 motherboard roundup: AsRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI
by Guillaume Louel
Published on November 14, 2011

Asus P8Z68-V Pro

Like most of its playmates, Asus uses a single overall design for most of its range of P67 and Z68 motherboards and this includes the P8Z68-V Pro. The processor power circuit is 12+4 phase.


The card has three PCI Express 16x ports, the first two of which share the 16 processor lanes via ASMedia ASM1440 switches. The second slot is connected in 4x mode via the Intel chipset lanes and there are also two 1x slots. In contrast to ASRock however, there’s no PLX bridge here to extend the number of available lanes. The result is that these slots share the lanes and although the third 16x port can run in 4x mode, by default it's in 1x mode! Using it in 1x mode deactivates the second 1x slot, the one under the main graphics port (you can also force the deactivation of the second USB 3.0 controller instead). In 4x mode, it will deactivate both 1x slots, one of the two USB 3.0 controllers and the eSATA controller. You have to wonder what the point of a 16x port is under these conditions…


Here two ASMedia ASM1042 chips power the USB 3.0 ports and although ASMedia chips are generally common on these motherboards, Asus is alone in using one for the USB ports. Each of them powers two ports.


In terms of additional storage, Marvell has a monopoly here with the 9172 which controls two additional Serial ATA 6 Gb/s ports. There’s also a second controller, the Jmicron JMB362. It’s quite an old PCI Express controller that can power two SATA 3 Gb/s ports at the same time. Only one of these ports is used here.

For the Ethernet Gigabit port however, Asus has brought out the big guns and is alone is supplying an Intel 82579 controller.

Rear panel

Asus is the only manufacturer not to include the PS/2 port on the rear panel, probably a good idea for most users. This leaves space for six USB 2.0 ports, two 3.0 ports and the eSATA and Gigabit Ethernet ports previously mentioned. Sound wise, there's an optical S/PDIF out and six assignable jacks powered by a Realtek ALC892 controller.


There are also three video outs: a VGA, DVI (single link) and an HDMI. Only two of the three (whichever you choose) can be used simultaneously.

Headers, particularities

The Asus card isn’t lacking in particularities, with, first of all, a series of switches. Apart from the Power/Reset buttons, there’s a MemOK button which allows you to resolve any memory conflicts automatically. If the system refuses to start because the SPD table is incorrectly defined, you can press on this button to force a resolution mechanism that allows you to start up the machine. In practice, this type of problem is now relatively rare.


More useful to our mind are the diagnostics LEDs which light up beside the processor, the memory and the graphics port. While not as thorough as the very exhaustive diagnostics system used by ASRock, these three LEDs are a low cost alternative which we reckon is worth a look. On the subject of particularities, note that Asus uses memory slots with asymmetric fixtures. Although you’ll find the traditional clip on top, it uses a catch system on the bottom. The idea is to make it easier to mount memory when a graphics card is already installed.

For the rest, you'll be able to connect up six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports and two Firewire ports (through a VIA controller PCI). In terms of cooling, you'll be able to connect up to six fans (of which there are three 4-pin connectors). Two of these can be controlled in the BIOS.

Bundle

In the bundle Asus supplies four good quality SATA cables, an SLI bridge, a Crossfire bridge and a PCI angle bracket exposing two USB 3.0 ports. Note that Asus also supplies two other interesting little accessories, firstly a variation of the traditional plate that is placed between the casing and the motherboard. It’s padded and, apart from limiting electromagnetic interference, this also stops you from cutting your fingers when you insert it into the casing.


The other is an extension of the different front panel connectors of the casing which allows you to connect the cables from the power and reset buttons as well as the different leds and speaker up to a single terminal that is inserted on the motherboard. A nice idea that facilitates mounting in the casing.

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